The most important part of commercial driving is the safety and health of you, the driver. In order to keep you, and others, safe while on the road the Department of Transportation mandates that you must complete a DOT physical every 24 months. It’s a universal fitness test that determines whether you’re fit to complete the tasks of your job. The whole process is typically very quick, but critically important. Let’s talk about what to expect and how to prepare for your DOT physical.
What Is a DOT Physical?
A DOT physical is the test all commercial drivers must pass in order to prove their fitness for the job. Without a current certificate from an approved DOT medical examiner, your commercial driver’s license is invalid. Statcare has DOT certified medical examiners available for DOT physicals 7 days a week, including holidays. After a successful DOT physical, you will be issued a medical certificate and a wallet-sized laminated CDL Card that is valid for 24 months. You are responsible for keeping your certificate and your CDL card up to date.
What tests are done a DOT Physical?
The DOT physical exam requires only a urine test. It is a good idea not to empty your bladder before the DOT Physical else you will have to drink enough water to enable you to give an adequate urine sample. For a DOT Physical, you do not need blood tests or sugar checks. Whether you are coming in for your first DOT Physical or a renewal of your CDL medical certification, no drug testing is required. The only time a drug test is done is when the employer requires you to have one. In that case, Statcare’s staff will discuss it with you, take your consent for the urine drug screen and then collect the urine sample in compliance with federal rules so that a proper drug testing can be done.
The urine test for a DOT Physical only involves testing for urine sugar, urine protein, blood in the urine and specific gravity or density of the urine sample.
What Does a DOT Physical Cover?
Each DOT physical should be the same, as the Department of Transportation standardized the physical examination. This enables each CDL driver to know exactly what to expect when they take their test. Standardization also means that a certificate from one of Statcare’s DOT approved medical examiners is valid in each of the 50 states.
The DOT physical itself covers a physical examination, vision, hearing, blood pressure and required urine samples. During the physical examination, your medical examiner will also cover everything from general appearance, respiratory function, vascular health, musculoskeletal condition and any neurological conditions.
It’s important to remember that you aren’t required to be the picture of perfect health to pass your DOT physical. The medical examiner is only looking for signs that you wouldn’t be able to complete the tasks of your job safely. If, for example, you have high blood pressure, you may not automatically fail your physical. Your job is only at risk if your condition is severe enough that it would prohibit you from safely doing your job without treatment.
The documentation you need for your DOT physical depends largely on your personal health. Everyone who takes a DOT physical must bring a list of their current medications, including doses and the name of the medical doctor who prescribed them, as well as their address. For any chronic medical conditions you may have, you must bring extra documentation. You should bring anything that will help prove to the medical examiner that you are fit to perform the duties of your job as required by the FMCSA. Here are some examples of varying types of documentation and equipment that may be helpful, depending on your health conditions.
CDL Drivers with Vision and Hearing Problems
If you wear glasses or contacts, you are permitted to use them during the DOT physical, so don’t forget to bring them. Additionally, if you require hearing aids, bring those to the physical as well. Your DOT physical requires you to pass a vision, color vision, and hearing test, so having these on hand is extremely important if you rely on them. If you had a recent hearing test, it is a good idea to bring the results with you.
CDL Drivers with Diabetes
Commercial drivers who have diabetes must prove that they have their blood sugar under control and it will not interfere with their performance on the job. Bring your most recent results of a Hemoglobin A1C (HgbA1C) test, your medicines and your blood sugar logs to the physical so your medical examiner has confidence in your ability to control your diabetes.
CDL Drivers with Sleep Apnea
Your DOT physical will not include a sleep test, but it is important to tell your DOT doctor if you have sleep apnea or use a CPAP machine. If so, be sure to bring data and readings from your machine (the sleep log) that proves your use of the CPAP machine and your health. The more historical data you have, the more confidence your medical examiner will have that you are fit to do your job as required by the FMCSA.
CDL Drivers with Heart Issues
Heart issues tend to be one of the more nerve-wracking conditions for commercial drivers. They don’t immediately disqualify you from passing your DOT physical, but it’s important to bring as much documentation to your physical as possible. You should bring a letter from your heart specialist that explains your medical history, and be prepared to bring results from a recent stress test or an Echocardiogram.
CDL Drivers with Lost Limbs
In the event that you’ve lost use of an arm, leg, foot or hand, you may still be able to secure a DOT medical certificate. As with everything, though, it requires additional documentation. Bring a note from your physician that explains the condition or injury and clears you of any work-related restrictions. Certain injuries may require a Skilled Performance Examination in order to pass the DOT physical, but your medical examiner will talk you through that on the day of the exam.
Remember, your medical examiner will try to work with you, but only if you bring the proper documentation to prove that you’re fit for the job. Do your part to bring the right information with you and your DOT physical should be efficient and successful.
What if You Fail Your DOT Physical?
The DOT Physical is typically a pass or fail test. Quite like the NY State Vehicle Safety Emissions test. And unfortunately, some drivers will not pass their DOT physical and this determination can only be made by the medical examiner, not the medical office staff. The medical examiner’s office also cannot coach you or screen you whether you can pass or fail the test. The federal rule is that you need to check in to the office and your current CDL Card and CDL medical certificate becomes invalid from the time you check in. The medical examiner will ask you for your existing certificate and dispose of it – this is quite akin to how a car or a trucks existing inspection becomes invalid and has to be removed from the windshield when you take your vehicle in for a NY State inspection. The safety of the driver and other people on the road is too important to compromise, so Statcare’s medical examiners must be consistent and strictly comply with all the DOT physical requirements. However, it is possible to receive your certification even if you fail your initial DOT physical.
As of June 2018, medical examiners were authorized to issue short-term medical certifications to commercial drivers who needed a little more time to control their medical condition. Health concerns like high blood pressure or diabetes can often be better managed within a few weeks, and the Department of Transportation made it possible to account for that.
The length of the short-term certificate is up to the medical examiner, but will generally be far less than 24 months, many a time it may just be for a few months until the condition is well controlled at which time the date on the medical certification can be extended by the medical examiner. Statcare’s DOT approved medical examiners goal is to help you get certified while keeping the safety of the public in mind and complying with federal laws. More often than not, the commercial driver must return to take an additional DOT physical when they’re in better health and can pass the test. If you fail to pass at that time, you won’t be issued a certificate and your CDL will be rendered invalid.
At Statcare, we make it easy to stay on top of these dates so that you never have to worry about your certificate lapsing. Statcare has one of the largest group of federally certified DOT examiners and many large trucking companies rely on Statcare to call back the drivers when it is time for a recertification. You can rest assured, that our staff will keep track of your records and remind you when you are due for renewal of your CDL medical certificate through a DOT physical. You will get a text message reminder as well as an email followed by a phone call when your next CDL card renewal is up. At that time, you can make an appointment, or you can stop by during our extended hours. We’re open every day so that you can come in when it’s convenient for you.
Paying for a DOT Physical
Statcare also wants to make paying for the DOT physical something that’s easy and quick for commercial drivers. Our standard cost is $99 for a DOT physical. That includes a vision check, a urine test and the physical. If you end up needing a special hearing test, Statcare providers will perform the Audiometry testing for hearing loss at no extra cost. Often, we run specials from time to time and then you can get the DOT physical at a discounted price. We believe in taking care of the people who work so hard to keep us safe and deliver the goods we rely on. Right now, you can come into any one of our locations and get a DOT physical for only $85! Check back to our page regularly to see if we have any specials or coupons you can take advantage of. Ask us about our driver referral program when you come in to be seen. Those incentives could very well significantly reduce your own cost for a renewal of the CDL medical card the next time around.
As you can see, what you should bring to your DOT physical depends largely on who you are and what your past medical history is. In general, the 4 things you need to bring no matter what are:
- A list of current medications, including doses, doctors names, and addresses
- Any additional medical documentation that might explain your current health
- $99 to pay for your DOT physical
- Glasses, hearing aids or other accessories that will help you pass your examination
We recommend keeping all of your medical documentation in a safe place that you won’t easily forget. Remember, you’ll need to access these files every two years, at a minimum. Keep yourself organized and you will cut down on the time you need to spend locating the right files and making sure you have all the right information.
If you have any additional questions about the DOT physical, Statcare’s medical examiners, or the best times to drop in to take your CDL physical, visit our website. You can check yourself in online and get seen on time. We’ll give you all the information that you need. And, as always, you’re welcome to come by without a scheduled appointment, too. We’re open 7 days a week, including weekends and holidays.